Jan 31, 2013

Our Christlike Prophet

By Susan Knight


Some people say “coincidence.” I say “Providence.”

For some reason, I received an email from my singles group announcing an Education Weekend the day before it was supposed to happen. I thought, “Why didn’t I get this email sooner?”

The keynote speaker last Friday night was to be Heidi Swinton, author of President Thomas S. Monson’s biography. Since her son used to be in my ward back east, and I know she writes beautiful “Music and the Spoken Word” narrations, I decided to go, even though it was short notice.

When I arrived at the stake building in Salt Lake City, I found out this was not a singles event. The program announced it was for “Adults and Youth.” I figured, I’m an adult. So I stayed.

Providence, I tell you.

I figured she would tell the story of writing the biography of President Monson. Sister Swinton delved deeply into her experience, beginning with “the phone call” she got while serving as Mission President’s wife in the South London Mission. Unbelievable.

She said President Monson always asks, “How are you doing?” before he begins any conversation or business. “And he really means it,” we were told. “He wants to know how you are.”

President Monson spoke to her for a good half hour on the phone, long distance from Salt Lake City to London, before he came to the real reason for his call--to ask her to write his biography. She said, until then, she thought maybe he called mission president’s wives on Wednesdays.

Sister Swinton painted a perfect picture of our prophet for the audience in attendance that night. I came to know the man as one who heeds impressions and promptings from the Holy Ghost.

The stories she told were familiar. I’d heard them in General Conference. However, looking into her eyes, and hearing her own words, more poignantly touched my awareness. The Spirit was so strong it filled the chapel. If there were windows, they would have burst.

A turning point in the prophet’s life, according to Sister Swinton, was when he was a 22-year-old bishop. An elderly man was in the hospital and didn’t have much time left. President Monson promised the dying man he would come to see him right after Stake Conference. He was a new bishop and new bishops had to sit on the stand that evening.

During the first speaker’s talk, President Monson heard an urgent voice say, “Go the hospital now.”

Being only 22, he didn’t know what to do. He thought, “Should I go? But how would that look?”

He received the same prompting, with more force, as the second speaker took the stand. Again, “Should I go?”

As the closing hymn began, he rushed out the door, sped to the hospital, and got to the room just as the nurse stepped into the hallway to stop him from entering. “You must be Bishop Monson,” she said.

“Yes, I am.”

“He was asking for you right before he passed away.”

Sister Swinton said, the phrase, “That lesson was not lost on me,” was one she heard many times in her conversations during interviews. There were oh, so many more stories she told to add to the Spirit that night.

We all know, from the stories the prophet tells, that he heeds promptings. He is a ministering angel. I chastised myself. “The Holy Ghost knows not to prompt me. I never listen.”

How many times have I heard the still, small voice, yet did not act? I’ve lost count. Imagine how that man, plotting to take his own life, felt as President Monson showed up, out of the blue, to rescue him as he sat in a wheelchair at the deep end of the swimming pool.

Yes, he learned that lesson well. It was not lost on him. Nor were his other life lessons missed.

Sister Swinton said many times how Christlike “Tommy” is. I felt a prompting. I heard the Spirit say to me, “Christ is like Thomas S. Monson.” A thought came to my mind that, when Christ walked on the earth, perhaps his personality was like our prophet’s. After all, Thomas S. loves to tell stories. Our Savior told parables to get his points across.

In fact, Sister Swinton said, our prophet doesn’t think in linear time. She would ask interview questions about when certain events happened and he would always answer, “Let me tell you a story.” Who does that sound like? When questions were asked of Him, he answered, “There was a certain man who. . .”

She said he thinks in celestial terms, not in earth time. I can’t explain it very well, but she did.
I exhort you all, if you ever have a chance to hear Heidi Swinton speak, make no excuses and go--quickly--to wherever she is. She didn’t use notes but spoke from the heart and spirit. Her delivery was sure. Her eyes scanned the congregation and met mine quite a few times.
She probably thought, “Who is that crazy lady down there crying so much?”

Jan 30, 2013

He La

by Kami Cornwall

I have been immersed in a new book that I want to share with you. It's called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and it's a great read. The Author is Rebecca Sloot. I am only on chapter 9 but as you can see by the lateness of my post, it's hard to put down.

Henrietta Lacks was a woman who went in to the doctor when she felt a lump in her body. It was cancerous. Her cells are the first cells that kept living. Thriving. They doubled every 20 hours and managed to contaminate other cell samples worldwide. They are also responsible for creating an immunization for polio, they have been flown into space, and have been discussed by presidents in hopes for a cure for cancer. She was also black.

Her family came to visit my college campus during MLK Jr. weekend. They are helping for her to gain the recognition she deserves. Heaven knows her doctors didn't give her that courtesy. They didn't even tell her they had taken her cells and passed them on to other labs. They nick-named her cells He La (HEnrietta LAcks.)

If you are looking for a biography that has great scientific significance and is so interesting you won't want to put it down, check it out!

Jan 29, 2013

How Long Will It Last?

by Terri Wagner

My state of unemployment has been a misery to me. I try hard not to show it or talk incessantly about it or complain to God too much about it, but it's always there, underneath everything I say or do or think about regularly. It's like that albatross Samuel Coleridge spoke about in the Rhine of the Ancient Mariner. It didn't help that after considerable fasting and prayer, I basically felt I was to trust Heavenly Father and ride this out. There was a joyful ending.

I wasn't too sure about that since I couldn't really decide if I wasn't just depressed and consoling myself with the idea that this was a trust situation. I talked it over with a few treasured friends who prayed and told me that although they didn't get a specific answer, they did feel I was on the right track. But time went on, the unemployment money ran out, the sub jobs slowed...and I know I am so not alone. Don't be fooled when they tell you the unemployment figures went down; it just means that many like me ran out of benefits and so "dropped" from the rolls. That does not mean these folks are employed.

I kept praying, working when I could, and spending time with my dad who has been very sick. Probably nearing the end of his life. We have been able to spend tons of time together, driving around, talking, just being there for him. You would think that might be enough...but for the longest time it was not. Then I began to wonder if maybe being able to be here was the thing, and a job would materialize later. In the past month, I have had to time my subbing with his health for the day. That has been gutwrenching. I could only hold to my heart the words of President Harold B. Lee, "Walk to the edge of the light, and perhaps a few steps into the darkness, and you will find that the light will appear and move ahead of you"

This past Sunday confirmation came that I was indeed taking the right step into the darkness. I still have no idea how long this will last, how much longer I will have my father with me, when gainful employment will come my way, but I feel calmer about it. A new couple in the ward gave talks and she said something that seemed to tell me just wait when you are not sure, wait for that confirmation. Then my sister told me as I shared my fears just a few days ago (I'm good at pretending I'm ok when I'm not), you will never regret spending this time with dad.

As if on cue, the closing song was Be Still My Soul. I know now only this much: I am moving in the right direction. It gives me enough courage to take another step into the darkness.

Jan 28, 2013

The Life of a College Student-- In Other Words... Lessons Learned in College

By Claire Enos

I almost completely forgot today was my day to post! I'm half asleep right now, sitting in the library because my next class doesn't start for another 45 minutes. I stayed up until nearly 2 in the morning, doing my homework that was due in class at 9 this morning.

In one of my many English classes I had today, we talked about an article written by Eliot Butler, called: "Everybody is Ignorant, Only on Different Subjects". I don't think anyone really thinks about this. We never think about the fact that given each different subject, we are all ignorant about something in this life. None of us know everything about every subject under the sun. Somehow, the class morphed into the idea that if we ever stop learning, we aren't truly eternally progressing.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, keep learning. Even if you are already out of college and have been for years, keep learning. Learning is good for you! And besides, don't you want to learn as much as you possibly can while you are down here on Earth? I know I do!

Have an amazing day!


Jan 27, 2013

Feel the REAL--Characters that breathe.

By Jennifer Debenham

Some of my favorite writers are also amazing teachers. As you may remember, I had the opportunity to attend one of David Farland's week-long writing camps last April. It was fantabulous (I really think that should be a word), and since then I have subscribed to his Daily Kick in the Pants--something I greatly need and highly recommend.

My favorite post from this past week was actually written by his assistant, who incidentally attended the same writing camp that I did in April. Go Kami! Her post deals with assigning characters strengths and weaknesses and how we can increase the complexity of our characters AND the story by changing the context to make a strength a weakness and vice versa.

You can read all about it here.

Happy Writing.

Jan 25, 2013

The Curmudgeon Cometh . . . Again!

by Marsha Ward

He's out! And here's what he's complaining about:

I know a lovely lady who encourages Marsha to "flush things out." I do that a couple of times a day, and I hope my mistress does, too, but I don't think the term should be applied to her writing. She might "flesh things out," depending on if she needs to add more detail, but the other suggestion is a bit scatological for my taste.


Just the other day, I was trying to be quiet and read over my mistress's shoulder while she looked at a couple of blogs. But when I saw reference to "an exhausted list," I'm afraid I howled with rage, and got thrown back into the dungeon for my pains. Hell's Bells! Everyone knows the term is "an exhaustive list."

And that thing about something happening "on accident." Don't get me started! This misused construction has made me tear my hair out until I'm the poor old Bald Curmudgeon. People! It's "by accident!"

Maybe this will help: by design; by accident. See the correlation? Look at it again. By design. By accident. Okay. Once more:


Get it! Got it? GOOD!!!

Yeah, he's back in the dungeon. But I guess he did have reason to complain. Those misuses annoy me, too.

Jan 24, 2013

Grandma Duty

by Kari Diane Pike

You'll have to forgive me. I had the best of intentions to post early today. I even had plans to write and save it a day in advance. But the text messages and phone calls that started Tuesday night about midnight resulted in a spur of the moment trip with the other grandma to Tucson -- just 20 minutes before the birth of grandbaby #18. Franklin Jerome Wright. 7# 7 oz. 20 inches long -- on my grandma's birthday! I never get tired of witnessing the miracle of a new life entering the world. Six hours later we took mom and baby Franklin home to meet his two-year-old brother and five-year-old sister. Suffice it to say - I've been a little busy.
Big Sister adores her baby brother.

We baked cupcakes and danced and read books and sang songs. We put together puzzles and played hide-and-go-seek. We ate peanut butter sandwiches, did laundry, gave Franklin his first little sponge bath, and watched Elmo over and over again. All in just over 24 hours.

Part of me misses experiencing these kind of moments on a daily basis. Then my arthritic joints remind me why we have children when we are younger. There is a time and a season for all things. I am blessed to have good health and to be able to enjoy my grandchildren...and then give them back to mom and dad. It's fun to be able to enjoy playing and not have to be the "bad guy." I get to blame all the rules on their parents (heeheehee).

Content in Mom's arms.
First "bath"...yeah...not so content.

All cozy again.

thanks for letting me share with you...

Jan 23, 2013

Essential oils and spiritual parallels

by Jill Burgoyne

My 22 month old baby has been sick for the last month straight. One cold after another after another. I started feeling concerned about how much medicine I was giving her. I know that it wasn't going to kill her, but it was really concerning to me. When she gets a cold, for the last three colds, there is an ear infection associated with it which comes with different antibiotics and then the cold drops into her lungs. She starts coughing and then wheezing. I spent many nights up every few hours (for three different colds) because she had a tough time breathing. I would give her breathing treatments. I am grateful for the medicine, but I started being really concerned that we wouldn't break the cycle of cold after cold.

The albuterol makes her jittery and she doesn't sleep well for hours after I give it to her. Her heart races when I give it to her too. This medicine really is amazing, but the side effects worry me. Then, once, it wasn't enough. She had to have steroids also. She's only 22 months.

Well, I had a handful of different essential oils that I was trying to learn about. I was applying them the best that I knew, but I had heard that they could actually kill or prevent ear infections. And help open up the lungs so that she wouldn't need albuterol. I was just having a tough time figuring out which oils to apply where and how for what. Ha ha.

Then, about two weeks ago, I went to the Dr we saw the nurse practitioner because Clarissa's fever had spiked and I knew she had an ear infection. Sure enough, she did. (Ugh). She was prescribed a stronger antibiotic and it made her tummy ache. I asked the doctor what to do about the cough. I was told to keep her on albuterol and give more steroids. I learned that cold water in Clarissa's nebulizer (breathing machine) might be effective and then I drove home with the determination to use the oils. I gave my baby the antibiotic, but I don't want to have to give her anymore.

Instead of albuterol in the nebulizer, I used distilled water and one drop of a specific oil blend that was created to help breathing. The results were comparable to albuterol. It took effect the same time, and she stopped coughing. Only, this time, she didn't get jittery and her heart rate didn't go up.

While on the antibiotics, 8 days later, at my brother's wedding, she started another virus, spiking at 103.2 in the morning. (Not again.) I dug in and really did some research about what oils are good for what parts of a cold. My brother's wedding was on Friday and that day, I pulled out the entire handful of oils I had and she became a bouquet of essential oil aromas. I applied them all in the morning and before she took a nap and before she went to sleep. I also applied several different oils as she needed them throughout the day (if she was rubbing her ear or something). Then on Saturday, (still on the antibiotics) she only spiked to 102. Sunday she was at 101. Monday she was at 100 and by Tuesday (yesterday) she was back to 98.4 -normal. I was trying to use preventative measures for her cough the entire time. And it helped. We are not completely free and clear yet. She still coughs a few times a day. But she is almost better. I feel like we broke the cycle (cross my fingers!) But I am really really happy. We even skipped the horrible night of staying up wheezing! SO HAPPY!

Now that she is showing signs of getting better, I am tempted to stop the oils.- but I think I'll keep it up until her cough completely stops too. She's breathing fine, she's not tugging at her ears, she's sleeping well... but that's how humans are. When things get easy, we let our guard down. I know for me, when I am not in the midst of hard times, my prayers to God are less heartfelt. My desires are less determined, and I start taking my blessings for granted.

Jan 19, 2013

ANWA Writers Conference is COMING!!

Cindy R. Williams 

If you are already signed up for the greatest writing confernce in the world, ANWA's of course, then I am preaching to the choir here. If not, take a quick gander.

Do you want to be a better writer of family history, novels, children's books, mysteries, a fantasy, non-fiction, journal writing? Is there a good clean romance circling around your head or heart?

If you answered yes to any of the above then ANWA's Time Out for Writers is EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED!

Not exaggerating. You get the most bang for your buck and it's all here in your own backyard. There is something for every level and genre.

Take a few minutes and check out the American Night Writers website.

Decide if you are a dreamer or a doer.  Dreamers keep meaning for things to happen, doers make them happen.

This year, take your writing seriously and invest in yourself. Give yourself a great gift.

Time Out for Writers!

Click here for more information:   ANWA Conference 

Jan 18, 2013

Dusty Noodles

By Beckie Carlson

Have you ever thought about what the inside of your brain looks like? I’m not talking about a Halloween project that involves cold noodles or cauliflower; I’m talking more about the visual manifestation your mind takes on when you visit it.
Some people say their minds are like a file cabinet with drawers filled with memories and imagination. My daughter talks about her mind like an office full of cubicles; walls around all the little things she doesn’t want to remember. I can understand that.
When I think about what my mind looks like, it is more of a cluttered attic with shadowy corners and dusty piles of boxes and crates. There is a lot in there, but I can’t really see it all from the rickety ladder I stand on in the small wooden flap of a doorway when I enter. It is really too much to deal with at times so I tend to keep that door shut and ‘just keep swimming.’
The other day when I was scrapbooking for my mother, I went all the way into the attic of my mind and opened a box. It was way back in the back, covered with old doilies and nameless books from my youth. What I found in that box was very surprising and has stayed with me over the last two weeks.
For as long as I can remember, I have regarded my childhood as a time I did not want to remember. I was not abused or neglected or hurt, I just remembered myself as a dorky kid that basically embarrassed me. I was better now. I had grown up and turned into a completely different person. That is what I told myself.
As I was scrapbooking, I came across several pictures of myself as a baby and young child. One picture in particular just stuck out to me with such power I cannot seem to shake the image. In the picture, I am smiling with a full, innocent, blissful smile reserved only for those that are too young for stress or worry. In that picture, I see a young girl that has no worries, only a love of life and feeling of safety and being loved. I see a girl I do not know, yet takes up a huge part of my heart.
It is a very strange thing to be introduced to yourself. I have wondered at different times in my life if I would want to be my friend if I met myself. Kind of a weird thing to think, but it has crossed my mind for whatever reason.
As I look at this picture, as I do quite frequently now, I have a great longing to know that little girl. I want, with an ache deep down in my heart, to hear her thoughts and dreams and just be with her for a while. I want to remember who I was back then. Why was I so happy in that picture? When did I become this different person and why?
I think about Harry Potter and the mirror he finds at Hogwarts. He sits and stares into the mirror, longing for what he sees there. How strange is it that I sit and stare at a picture of who I used to be and long to be there again? Am I the only one that misses the innocence and beauty of youth?
Maybe that little girl is still inside me somewhere, trying to get out. Maybe she is in that cluttered attic watching my life as it gets more and more complicated and distant from the girl I once was. Is she proud of who I have become? Or does she slink farther and farther back behind the stacks of boxes, trying to block me out as much as I have managed to block her out?
I know I can never go back. I can never be that girl again, but maybe I can let her out a bit. Maybe I can let her share her wonder of life and unbiased trust and love for others. Maybe, just maybe I can gain a bit of her youth to dilute the hardness age has pushed upon me. It’s hard to share my life, even with myself, but I can try…. cause I said so.

Photo credit: http://www.johnderbyshire.com/FamilyHistoryJD/attic.jpg

Jan 17, 2013

7 Steps to Achieve Your Goal

By Susan Knight

Let’s see. We’re half-way through January. It’s been two weeks since we’ve made our New Year resolutions . . .

I heard that! Don’t groan.

Guess what my New Year resolution is. All together now—Lose Weight.
Now you can groan.

I have a picture of myself in my mind. I’m twenty-one. I have great hair and a thin body. It’s “Before Kids.”

That picture of myself is always in my mind. I do a double take when I look in the mirror. The person staring back is not that 21-year-old young woman with a shaggy mane and svelte figure. I know I can never be “her” again, but I can still dream big.

So, my resolution is to follow my big dream. In fact, I've devised a plan for us all.

1. Get the Critic Off Your Shoulder. You know, that little voice in your head that says, “You can’t do that. It’s too much. Cut yourself some slack.” Shoo it away. Away!

2.  Set Your Mind Toward the Goal. Write it down in baby steps. Think about it. Ease into it.

Is your dream to blow the dust off that manuscript you began years ago? Starting a new project?

My friend, Theresa Sneed, set a simple, attainable goal and has, so far, stuck with it. No television, Facebook or any other distraction until she has written at least ten pages every day. Kudos to her because she’s doing it. And she only has two steps: no distractions; ten pages.

3. Make the Commitment. Resolve. This goes hand-in-hand with the challenge. It’s called fortitude. It’s called integrity. It's not a wish, it's a goal. It means work. You can do it!

4. Now that you have the goal in mind and you're committed, Challenge Yourself, as Theresa did, to put this new objective into place. You will, most likely, need to change your behavior.

The first time you say “no” to that cookie or bowl of ice cream will be the hardest. That first page on the screen will be scary. It gets easier as you go along.

Break the goal down, if needed. Dare yourself to make it through seven days. The first week is the most difficult, so the next target is to get through week two.

5. Have a Picture of What You Want to Accomplish in Front of You. Write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a prominent place where you will see it.

I have a bulletin board directly across from where I get up every morning. When the alarm goes off, I sit up, swing my legs over the bed, and it’s staring me in the face—a picture of a slimmer me. Who knew that what I weighed at the age of forty-five would be my goal weight now? c.h.u.c.k.l.e. What? Did you think I was going to have a picture of my 21-year-old self?

6. Have a Support Group around you to give you props. Go on a diet with a friend. Do a project with someone like-minded. Join a critique group. Sometimes it does take a village to help us keep our resolutions.

7. Don’t Beat Yourself Up if You Stray from Your Goal. Notice, I said “if.” Don’t wallow in defeat or self-pity. You are human. Stuff happens. Just get back to it. Remember your dream.

February's coming, people. We’re going to stick with our New Year resolutions. And when I say “we,” I also mean “me.” Don't be that person who gives up before the month of January is through.

We’re going to make it. And when I say “we,” I also mean “you.”

Jan 16, 2013

People are Fascinating

by Kami Cornwall

     I'm a fan of people. They fascinate me. When I was in high school one of my favorite games was walking to the 7-11 and as people in cars passed by my friend and I would concoct stories about them.
     "That lady is a secret agent headed to the governor's home to take secret photos. That guy is smiling because he's wearing his favorite pink underwear today. That kid just learned how to drive but secretly he is a brilliant musician and will go to Carnegie on scholarship next year."
     As part of an experiment in my group therapy class recently we had to wear party hats which said something on them and we had to follow those rules. So I had to ignore the girl who wore "ignore me" on hers, people were telling me I was annoying so I could assume what mine said, and the guy across from me had on, "treat me like a sex object." After asking him about it today he laughed and said it was actually really flattering so either we didn't go far enough with it and he felt like we were just complimenting him, or guys just don't react the same. Maybe it's a little bit of both.
     Anyhow, it got me reflecting on how people are so very different even though we are all part of one big dysfunctional family. I watched two men enter a music store today to buy a guitar. They were Middle-Eastern and would chatter with each other in between time in their own language. They knew nothing about guitars, freely admitting that, but wanted one anyhow. I wondered what it would be like if I was transported to their country and what normal is over there. What is life like in Scotland? What about Greece? I think the most well-rounded people, or perhaps those with the best understanding of people must be those who have traveled around the world. And I'm a little jealous of them. The farthest I've ever been was Mexico...and it wasn't much different from San Diego. Maybe that's why I love writing so much - I can transport myself anywhere I want to be...but I've never actually been there.
     Are you a people watcher? What is the most unusual, fascinating, amazing behavior you have ever witnessed?  Here's a little bit of people watching that I love. The best part of this video is that most everyone is not watching or responding to he so she can do pretty much whatever she wants. I love people!


Jan 15, 2013

Roll Tide Roll

by Terri Wagner

It's a very big deal around here. It's a very big deal to me because I graduated from the University of Alabama. It's sweet for our state...we love being in the running for the national championship.

It's also a big deal because it takes the right coach (and I don't necessarily mean a specific coach), the right guys, and the right fans to make it to the top; not once, not twice, but three times in four years (and in the case of Auburn, that makes it 4 ot of 4 for the state).

It's also a big deal because it's about commitment to your team, your coach, and your fans.

I feel very strongly that one of the main reasons (and this is finally changing thank goodness) that men had an up in the working world is because they usually had all participated in sports. It taught them valuable lessons about getting along with the ones who glory hog, the ones who slack off, and the ones you just can't stand. Have you every noticed that men can deal better with fellow co workers like that? I have.

It also makes you feel closer to your community when everyone walks around nodding and saying Roll Tide. You belong to something bigger.

I hope you don't take this as bragging as much as applauding. My Crimson Tide has had some bad years. From 1992, our last national championship, to 2009 have been rough years. We had a coach caught in an affair, team members ratting each other out, and fans who were embarrassed by NCAA probes.

So let me enjoy these past three (and four) years. Next year is probably what we call down here a re building year, i.e., don't expect another run for a championship LOL.

Jan 14, 2013

And Thus, Another Semester has Begun...

By Claire Enos

I am so sorry I didn't post earlier today! Today has been pretty crazy for me. First, I wake up sick, then I can't turn on the bathroom light because all the power was out around here. They even cancelled classes until 11:30 this morning while they waited for the power to come back on campus. Of course all but two classes today were cancelled sometime last week, so I was only planning on going to my 9-10 class and my 3:15-4:15 class. I was so happy my 9-10 class was cancelled though, because I didn't want to go to class and get my classmates sick. I was fine skipping my 3:15-4:15 class, but because the internet was down until 20 minutes ago, I never posted my homework. 

Other than that, school has been great! I love my classes (4 English classes and 1 Religion class (Family History Research)). 

I hope your days have been so much better than mine! Stay healthy and keep writing!


Jan 13, 2013

How Moving Is Like Christmas, and What's On Your Reading List this Year?

By Jennifer Debenham

Please excuse the late post. Usually I write my Sunday post on Saturday night because Sundays are, well SUNDAYS. With family happily all about, it's hard to find a spare minute to write. This Saturday, however, our internet was out, so here it is the last wee-minutes of my Sunday evening, and I'm just barely sitting down to type a few thoughts.

As I've written before, we recently moved into our new home, after living with my parents for nearly a year while it was being built. It was wonderful to be with my parents who are about as perfect as any two people ever could be, but we are certainly enjoying our new home.

Opening our boxes after all that time has been like a second Christmas as I look at many favorite belongings that have been "hiding" for a year. In many cases I forgot I had certain favorite things.

It's probably no surprise to you--my bosum, like-minded pals--that my favorite boxes to unpack have been my books. Bookstores are my favorite stores and whereas many other women feed their shopping craving by picking up a new outfit or a pair of shoes--my form of shopping therapy is nearly always BOOKS!

No surprise then, that I have purchased a LOT of books I haven't read yet. Opening my box-upon-box of books made me happier than Ralphie opening up his Red Rider BB Gun on Christmas morning.

Some were old cherished friends. Others I'm still waiting to make their acquaintance. All of them give me a little smile in my heart.

As well as a list of things to READ! So on my reading list this year I have:

Pathfinder, by Orson Scott Card
The Goose Girl series, by Shannon Hale
The Matched series, by Ally Condie
The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
Nightingail, by David Farland
Slayers, by C.J. Hill
The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

And that's just the boxes I've opened so far. I still have several to go.

But despite all my great books, I'm always looking for suggestions. So, what's on your reading list this year?

Happy Reading AND Writing!

Jan 11, 2013

Trying Something New

by Marsha Ward

For my first Friday post, I thought I would try out new technology. This post is being composed on a Samsung tablet, using Blogger's mobile app. How about that! The typing is much slower than I'm used to, but the convenience of not being tethered to a desktop is pretty neat.

I finished reading a book a few minutes ago. The story was intriguing, and I enjoyed that a lot.

However, I think The Curmudgeon must have gotten out of his dungeon and been reading over my shoulder, as he was quite vocal about a few points.

1. Some modern language, both words and phrases, intruded into the historical setting.

2. Typographical errors abounded, many more than I would have expected from an award-winning author. Words were transposed in sentences, and extra words left in after edits had been made by removing some words and rewriting the sentence differently.

3. Some factual errors jolted me out of the story. At one point, a person went upstairs, but in the same paragraph, had stayed downstairs to converse with others. In another instance, a woman who had given birth was buried under a headstone proclaiming that she had only lived to the age of eleven years.

4. A few words did not mean what the author may have thought, and some little touches were missing, either due to the author's youth, or a lack of thorough research.

I must say that I share The Curmudgeon's distress over the lack of proofreading in the version of the manuscript I was given. The fact that the ARC was labeled an "Advanced Reader's Copy" also gave me pause. I appreciate being thought of as an advanced reader. However, the standard meaning of ARC is "Advance Reader Copy," or a copy provided to selected readers (usually reviewers) in *advance* of publication.

Well, I put The Curmudgeon back in the dungeon and reflected on the good story I had read. I liked it. It was well plotted, if a teensy bit predictable. The characters were well-drawn. There was adequate use of sensory language and tension. It's a pleasant read, and quite clean as to moral values. I would like, though, to read the published version, as I anticipate fewer problems of the type I've cited above will be in the finished edition.

But my determination to not make these sorts of errors in manuscripts I share has been refreshed by the experience.

Jan 10, 2013

If You Chance to Meet a Frown - Find a Two-Year-Old

by Kari Diane Pike

Two-year-olds inspire me. I have the privilege of living with a two-year-old right now. Her name is Gwendolyn. She loves pretties in her hair, "boobies" (blueberries), babies, hanging upside down and crawling in and out of the doggie door. She also shares her "Gamma's" love for spinach/bacon/green chili omelettes and of course, chocolate.

Gwen has entered that fascinating stage generally referred to as "the terrible two's." But I love it. I admit that I didn't appreciate it so much when my own children (Gwen's father included) went through their neural "housecleaning" so to speak, but back then, I didn't understand that's what was happening. It wasn't until years later that I took a class on brain development and learned how, at about age 2, the brain sweeps away underused neural pathways and builds up the reinforced ones (super simplified explanation). This process lasts for a few months to a year or so and begins again during puberty -- lasting clear up into the mid-to-late twenties. Millions upon millions of brain cells die during this process. If this housecleaning didn't happen, our brains would become so overwhelmed, they would self-destruct (another over simplified explanation)!

Gwen was uber cranky the other day so I scooped her up in my arms and, with my most serious look, started singing, "If you chance to meet a frown, do not let it stay. Quickly turn it upside down and smile that frown away." When I smiled during the appropriate part of the song, I was startled by how much effort it took to make that smile. I obviously had not been using my smile muscles nearly enough. That thought really bothered me and caused me a great deal of pondering and analyzing.

For the next several days, I focused on remembering to smile. I used to have a yoga instructor who would end our practice by having us stretch our arms above our heads, look up, and smile. She would say, "And don't let that be the only smile of your day." Now I've added smiling to my little list of stretches I do every morning  before I get out of bed.

While reading in The Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ,  I came to Mosiah 15:30:  "Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the asalvation of our God"

I love that: "Break forth into joy" and "sing together "! I have every reason to smile and rejoice because there is no trial or challenge so great that the Savior can't heal and comfort me. I can do hard things through Jesus Christ.

Gwen is in the room with me right now. She climbs on and off my lap, torments the cat, asks for bites of whatever I am snacking on, and mimics every word I speak. When she looked up into my eyes a few moments ago, I made it a point to smile my best smile at her. Her blue eyes lit up and her darling dimples appeared on either side of her beloved Binky. Then Gwen squealed and threw her arms around my neck.

I think I'm going to be doing a lot more smiling from now on.

What makes you smile?


Jan 8, 2013

Book Review "Born to Run"

 By Leesa Ostrander

I recently started reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. It is a book written by a columnist looking to find out why his feet hurt when he runs.

The book was recommended by my chiropractor, my brother who is an avid Ironman competitor, my physician, physical therapist and many others. Each person had their own reason as to why it was a recommended read. I have not finished the book and it is not what I expected it would be about but am enjoying it immensely.

I now recommend it as an excellent read. It is a memoir on one man’s journey and is an addictive read, even if you have no desire to run or be any level of athlete.

First, it is very well written. Either McDougall has years of practice, great talent, excellent editor or combination of all to make the read enjoyable and completely immersed me into it.

Second, it has the themes I was looking for: personal growth, overcoming obstacles, and answering the question “why do I hurt when I run?” McDougall began the journey with a question, continued on his life path and was directed in to answering this very question. His line of work (columnist for Men’s Health) allowed him to travel to find the answers, seek professional advice and then on to discover a people of superhuman strength in Mexico.

It is interesting the connection to the lifestyle of this group of people as to how we see healthy living now. I almost see it as the persistence and attributes of the Laminates (but this is altogether a different topic).

He states that a gazelle wakes up each morning knowing it has to be faster than the fastest lion and a lion wakes up knowing it has to be faster than the slowest gazelle. Either way both animals wake up each morning and run.

Lastly, I am enjoying the book because I am highlighting quotes at an alarming rate. I rate my book satisfaction based on how much I bookmark and/or highlight. One quote I particularly relate to “The real mutants are runners who don’t get injured. Up to eight out of ten runners are hurt every year.” I know this from personal experience.

 However, one downside that I did not particularly care for is his worldly language. Some of the nonchalant wording is not high standard and the slight cursing is distracting to me. It may be common place in language now and I am not fond of it.

My overall review is this book is a keeper.

Jan 7, 2013

A Little Hodge Podge

By Tracy Astle

THIS IS THE HODGE - I must confess, I'm pretty fairly shocked. It's still the first week of the new year and not much has been said about resolutions here. I was planning on hitting a completely different topic since I thought this would have been done to death by now. I could talk ad nauseam about this, but I won't. I'll restrain myself, just give a couple of tidbits to nibble on.

I must also confess, I'm quite ambivalent about New Year's resolutions. I'm very big on goal setting, mind you, in whatever form works best for a person. I'm just not so sold on the idea that January is the time to try to overhaul one's life as people tend to do with Resolutions. (You may imagine me saying "Resolutions" in a stodgy old businessman kind of way, if you would please. It adds a nice effect.)

Too often when it comes to January of any given year our cups runneth over with good intentions that end up overwhelming us, thereby doing no good to our self esteem, our motivation or our belief in our own capability to become, in the end, the brilliant person of total awesomeness that we already are in so many ways and are destined to become fully at some glorious day in the future.

So take a breath. Relax, if need be.

If you're a Patty Plodder, awesome. I hereby grant you permission to just choose a direction, only one, that you want your life to go and head that way - at whatever pace suits you and your life circumstances right now. I know it's cliche, but this really isn't a race. Our direction is vastly more important than our speed. Do what works.

A little story - I was due with my third child in February of 1990. In late December of 1989 as all my friends were busily planning the miraculous changes they would bring to themselves and their lives by way of their very lofty and admirable Resolutions for the New Year, they would invariably ask me what my resolutions were. Frankly, I was too tired by that point in my pregnancy to even contemplate such things, so I always replied, "My resolution for 1990 is to have a baby." Then we would chuckle together. But, you know what? The more I gave that answer, the more I realized that was truly the smartest, most important thing I could possibly do at that point.

With my prior two children I had been the this-kid-isn't-going-to-slow-me-down-one-bit kind of mom. I learned with my third to slow down. I became a much better mom when I gave myself permission to have that baby be my whole life for awhile, content to watch people around me zoom on past in their personal progress. His older brothers benefited from my new attitude, too. So did I - and not just that year, but every year since then.

Now, if you're more of a Mary Motivated, that's wonderful, too. Plan away to your heart's content. If January's your time, yay. I prefer to just refresh my goals as needed whether that falls in January or any other month (or week or day) of the year. Whenever the goal setting moment comes, here's a little something for you.

Set SMART goals.


Bottom line? Do what works for YOU. And to quote Walt Disney -

Keep Moving Forward.

THIS IS THE PODGE - Your dumb writerley joke for the day.

The Past, the Present and the Future walk into a bar.
It was tense.

Got any you want to share?

Jan 6, 2013

Thanks, and a Move

by Marsha Ward

Today I'd like to acknowledge two of our blog team members who have moved on with life: Laura Lofgreen and Bonnie Harris. Thank you, ladies, for sharing a part of your lives with us every other week.

Bonnie had been with us since the very end of 2010, and Laura since mid-2011. We miss them, but Bonnie has a new baby arriving in a few weeks, and Laura has other projects to tend to.

I'm going to use their loss to move myself off blogging on Sunday, so from now on, I'll be here on Fridays: this coming Friday, in fact. Perhaps I'll feel more comfortable speaking to more pithy issues on a weekday than I have on a holy day.

See you then!

Jan 5, 2013

Growing Pains

by Cindy R. Williams

I sit in the dark in our hotel room in Show Low. My three sons and their father are all snoring lightly after a long day snow boarding.

I smiled at them as they laughed as they groaned about their aching muscles. They loved their "man" day today while I sat at the window writing for most of the day, with a lovely view of snowy mountains.

As I write this, my eyes blur. As in the Lord of the Rings series, the "Fellowship of the Williams Five" will become the "Williams Four" tomorrow. My oldest son will be leaving a week early for BYU Provo to visit a friend in Idaho to go mountain climbing before school starts. It has been glorious to have all three of my sons around this past year.

I wipe away tears now as I continue. More rapid change is coming. The "Fellowship of the Williams Four" ends February 6 when my second son leaves for the MTC for his two year mission to the Texas Dallas Mission.

At one time, it was the "Fellowship of the Williams Seven" that is before my two daughters married. Soon it will be the "Fellowship of the Williams Three" for about six years, until our youngest leaves for his mission. From Seven in the home to three. That is a hard reality to swallow right now.

All I know is that it is very painful to go through these changes as our children grow and leave the nest. I am one that had a hard time each year school started. I love my children home.

Hard as this is, however, I truly wouldn't have it any other way.  Each of my children has a great love for the Lord and are going about their lives under His direction.

Although my heart is full of thanks to my Heavenly Father for allowing me to mother them for these all to short years, my heart aches. This must be the meaning of bitter sweet.

May I leave one little tidbit of advice to all you mother's with your children still gathered around your knee?  Hug them often and enjoy each moment even thought you are tired. Make wonderful memories. It is gone all too quickly.


Jan 4, 2013

Mullet Chop

Today was a good day. Today I can say I spent a good portion of my day in the service of my fellow man, or should I say...mom. Yes, today was the day that my mom actually got to collect on the incredibly thoughtful Christmas gift my sisters and I gave her. What we gave her was a day of scrapbooking. Not a day scrapbooking 'with' her, but rather scrapbooking 'for' her. Let me give you a little background on why exactly that was our choice of words. 
My mom is an amazing woman. She is a bit like me in that when she starts something she likes to jump in with both feet and not look back until she can see the shore of success clearly before her. We both like clean houses when we have company over so we both tend to look at the mess in the living room and go straight to the back of the house to clean out the deepest, darkest, unused, overstuffed closet in the house.  The difference between my mom and me is that I jump in and just start doggy paddling til I get where I want to go. Mom on the other hand, get out the map, compass, flippers, goggles, scuba tank, sun screen, shark repellant, and swimsuit/wetsuit before she goes near the water. In other words, I'm a 'fly by the seat of my pants' kind of gal and my mom is.....'detail orientated.' 
This probably doesn't seem like a problem for something as simple as scrapbooking, but it totally is. Where as I can throw a cute scrapbook page together in a few minutes, my mom takes a bloody hour to line up for pictures on plain black paper. (I love you mom!) 
For years, my mom has been hinting about getting help with her scrapbook needs. She has said things like....' I wish someone would just come and do all my pictures for me.' Or even more subtly, 'how much would you charge me to put all my pictures in books Beckie?' I started to get worried when she said things like, ' I dreamed the house burned down and all the pictures were destroyed....I woke up happy.' It was time for intervention. 
My sisters and I spent seven hours at the homestead scrapbooking today. We didn't do any frilly stuff, just stuck pictures on paper and put them in stacks. Mom still has to go back and journal......well, most of the pages. She did make the mistake of giving me a white gel pen at one point in the day and, well, let's just say I embellished a bit. (now she's going to go and look to see what I wrote....heehee)
The best part of the day was not doing service for my mom. It wasn't even laughing at my dad and brother's REALLY short shorts in the 80's or even my baby sister's inability to keep pants on for more than ten minutes ..... the best part of the day was reliving all those memories. Guess what? I looked pretty happy in most of those pictures ( I threw away the ones where I was picking my nose....sicko photographer) and there were pictures of me with my siblings.  It may seem like a no brainer - duh kind of thing, but I seriously don't remember much of my childhood. It is sad and almost depression causing at times when I am around my family and they are laughing about memories that I don't feel included in. I moved away when my baby sister was only four or five. I missed out on a lot. Those memories, the ones that happened when I was already gone, are the ones my family remembers most clearly. Sometimes it feels like I am from a different, lost family. 
It felt good today to find some connections. I was there. We did have common memories of fun times, silly times, embarrassing times, and times when Rhea did actually have her pants on. It felt really good to find that place for me. 
I'm not sure when we will get to do another scrapping day, we are all so busy. I am hoping it is soon. It is important to me to build those family ties before I give in to the urges to run away and never come back. It helps me think that maybe, just maybe, someone would miss me and my kids. Besides, I need my crazy family around so I can put some of the blame for my inept parenting onto them. I mean.....the proof is in those pictures. No pants, mullet hair cuts, turtle faces and all.....I may be the only sane one around and...I can keep my pants on...cause I said so.

Photo credit: http://galleryhairstyles2013.blogspot.com/2012/01/mullet-hairstyles.html

Jan 3, 2013


By Susan Knight

This will be short because I don't own a laptop, so I can't recline and write, and sitting at my desk is tricky. I'm trying not to fall out of the chair.

On Sunday, after three weeks of fighting a flu, I announced I was finally over it. I even went and sang in my women's chorus; the first time I could sing since the beginning of December.

Yesterday, as I was in the movie theater with my bestie watching "The Hobbit," I began coughing, and coughing, and coughing.



I'm down for the count again, but this time without any PTO at my job. I don't know how I made it to work, but I did and as long as I sat still, my coughing jags could be managed. I plied myself with cough medicine and oranges and lozanges and ibuprofen and vitamin C. There was more, oh, yes, there was, but I'm incoherant and can't remember right now.

Please guard yourself.

Make sure you cough and sneeze into your elbow.

The rule is use hand santizer three times, then wash your hands for 20 seconds the fourth time.

If you get sick, rest and drink lots of fluids.

Excuse me while I go pour a glass of orange juice. *sniff*

I hope you all have a healthy and happy New Year! :-]

P.S. I did have a flu shot  :-[

Jan 2, 2013

When Food Goes Bad

by Kami Cornwall

Do you know how when you get home from your holiday travels and open your refrigerator you scream and slam the door before you are held hostage by the "leftovers gone bad?" In our house we do what we call "food police" in order to rid the refrigerator crime-world of those truly heinous disasters. The worst offender this year was heavy cream. I had to shake it out of the container. It looked more like yogurt than cream. The egg nog was almost as bad. He was ready to join the gang.

All of the vegetables had sat around on their rocking chairs talking about the weather until they were wrinkled and grey. I had to put them out of their misery. And the ranch dip? It filed for a separation and ended up going down the drain. The Salisbury Steak was suspect and definitely had to go.

Now we're equipped with fresh salad, fruits, whole grains, and lean meats. I'm excited to get back into the swing of things (though the occasional need for a cinnamon roll may be called for.) The worst part? I hate to throw away the goodie plates people gave us...but there's too much!

How is your kitchen counter looking? Did you keep all of the cards and photos? What do you do with them?

Jan 1, 2013

First Day, 2013

by Terri Wagner

Good way to start a journal entry, isn't it?

Years ago I saw this saying and adopted it as my own personal philosophy:

An optimist sees the glass as half full;
The pessimist as half empty;
The realist knows sooner or later, someone will have to wash those glasses, and it will probably be them.

I enjoyed being a realist, and thought it a prudent way to see the world. I incorporated being a natural born worrier into this philosophy. For example, I use to live in a high airplane dense area, so naturally I was concerned about planes flying into my apartment. The optimist would laugh and say, "what are the odds?" The pessimist would say, "yea well then that's your fate accept it." Me, the realist, examined the issue by thinking, "so if the plane hits while I'm gone, no sweat. If it hits while I'm there, what are the possible scenarios?" That was just one way I kept my worrywart nature on high alert.

Trouble is, the world has shifted dramatically to the dark side. Our church leaders now use words like "perilous times, in a war, a strengthening of evil," and yet use words like "keep the commandments, protect the family, stay happy, be a light in the darkness," to advise us.

So I changed my New Year's Resolution from my usual boring thing that hasn't worked in years anyway to tada: being an optimist. The world doesn't need anymore realists who view the world through somewhat jaded eyes. It desperately needs a light to run to, a light to be warmed by, a light to be strengthened by.

Frankly, this will not be easy. I am still unemployed, my dad's health has downgraded to "hopefully having more good days than bad ones," and the current economic path does not fill me with much hope. The old me, the realist, would square her shoulders and try to "keep calm and carry on," wondering if I really can live on my food storage, well, what food storage I've managed to stock up.

So I suspect I will be consulting with Heavenly Father regularly on exactly what an optimist thinks and how they see coming events. The best place to start is the place this shift began with Lesson 24 in Teachings of the Presidents: George Albert Smith. The last page of the lesson is a must-read for this new year and the reason for my newfound optimism.

In this lesson, which I had to teach, the Lord's prophet (as a convert of many year, I still find it amazing that we have a prophet to look to for advice and instruction), basically said, there's a plan, all these events were foretold, there are instructions to keep (food storage comes to mind) and a great mission to perform for a world seeking light. Read it! Hopefully you will come away as inspired as I was (and as comforted).

So, journal entry for First Day, 2013 would be something like: The overcast sky makes the water on the beach look gray and mystic. I can almost imagine magical things taking place just below the surface. I am grateful to live so close to the beach I can go there every day. My father is up and moving around (he went through a heart stent, congestive heart failure, and a blood clot in a two-and-a-half-week period). There's money in the bank as I have been warned to accumulate, there's food storage for a few months, the sweetest dogs in the world to share my life with, and family to prop me up. I have a mission to perform, so keep smiling. You know how this all ends.

I can assure you that would not be my normal "realist" journal entry.

So here's to optimism (not to be confused with Pollyannaism, which is just plain otherworldly LOL) and a New Year to learn a different way of looking at things.